Columbia University lead poisoning expert Joseph Graziano, who did not participate in the monkey research, describes Zawia’s findings as “a call for more research” about whether lead may cause Alzheimer’s Disease in humans.
“The finding is important in that lead probably is one of many environmental exposures that may contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease,” Graziano says. He adds that if a link between lead and Alzheimer’s Disease does bear out in people, it could mean that people exposed to relatively low levels of lead years ago may be at risk.
"Many, many Americans had blood leads in those ranges as children. Lead exposure in the United States peaked at 1977. Plenty of us had blood leads in that range and thought nothing of it at the time,” he says.
According to Zawia, the study is further evidence that “we shouldn’t assume just removing a substance from the environment means that everything will be okay. So we have to be much more vigilant, and we have to learn more how to protect ourselves” from hazardous materials like lead.
Zawia’s lab is looking into both causes and treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. He says new tools like blood screening for past lead exposure could help the right people to seek help.
Research authors: Jinfang Wu, Riyaz basha, Brian Bock, David Cox, Fernando Cardozo-Pelaez, Christopher McPherson, Jean Harry, Deborah Rice, Bryan Maloney, Demao Chen, Debomoy Lahiri, and Nasser Zawia.
Publication: Journal of Neuroscience on January 2, 2008
Funding: National Institutes of Health (NIEHS and NIA), the University of Rhode Island INBRE Core Facility and the Alzheimer's Association.